Editor’s Note: On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. That night, as explosive protests broke out across the country, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a presidential candidate at the time, gave the following speech in Indianapolis. Much has changed in America since 1968, yet Kennedy’s words offer a stark lesson in contrasting leadership styles in 2020. They also remind us that the nation is still broken in many of the ways that it was more than 50 years ago, as the pain caused by racial violence endures.
I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.
In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black—considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible—you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization—black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.